#04 Beanbag Musings – My Cup of Tea

Hello All! 

Trust you have been safe and well during these challenging times. Many of us have had to rethink and redefine our priorities in some way or the other due to the situations we found ourselves in. 

As an art facilitator for adults with disabilities, we at AADI had to change our model of dispensing art classes from person to person interaction, to an online one. A large number of members join in for our Zoom art sessions now. 

After initial challenges, we have come upon a simple and workable plan which includes introduction, explanation and demonstration that the group has started looking forward to now. It has been a big learning for me as well. 

The idea for this month’s newsletter came about with a desire to simplify and re-focus on our individual choices. To revisit habits that have stayed with us without us even knowing.

My Cup of Tea

I was used to a well-laid out tea tray. Maybe, it had something to do with growing up as a disciplined, army officer’s daughter.

A beautiful kettle for brewing. A kettle that had been pre-warmed and now held one extra teaspoon of tea leaves for itself and one each for all the tea-lovers sitting around it patiently. 

This tray had a pristine white, hand-embroidered tray cloth and matching tea-cosies for the kettle and milk. Cups and saucers were porcelain or ‘bone china’. That experience of tea-drinking was straight backed, ‘edge of the chair’ kind. For slouching against the back of the sofa with a cup and saucer was out of the question. That meant a precarious act of balancing akin to centering a marble on a flat plate.

This experience morphed into doing away with cumbersome teacups and introducing the more practical mugs into the picture. The trays too became smaller and simpler as opposed to the large and decorative variety. 

The tray cloths also reflected a change in mood, becoming funkier and bolder.

Mugs started coming in a ridiculous variety of shapes and sizes. When some guests arrived unannounced the first instruction was to bring down the ‘matching set’ or a desperate question, ‘Do we have enough?’

The tray looked disciplined, even though the tea-drinking experience itself was somehow connected to memories of the most informal kinds. The ‘dhaba chai’ on road trips or the ‘hole in the mountain’ tea stall with rickety benches made of nailed slats of wood. Or glugging tea, the consistency of honey, achieved through over-boiling by a vendor at a tribal fair. 

Who can forget the image of a little boy in a stained vest and oversized shorts running with a metal stand holding six crudely made glasses of sloshing brew? The ‘cutting chai,’ Or that life-saving call in the morning, after an overnight train or bus ride…nostalgia at its best! Or the practiced art of piping hot tea precisely aimed into a mug from an arm’s length away! Another mundane act, elevated into an art-form ☺

The ‘kullhar’ chai with its earthy flavor is a personal favorite. The lack of a handle to hold, the fingers doing a delicate balancing dance to relieve each other of the scorching heat, is all an experience to enjoy once in a while.

I have a collection of mugs that have remained after a majority in the set broke or got chipped and now hold sundry money plants in different corners of the house. 

The ‘Last Ones Standing’ form a mismatched set now! An assortment of different colors and shapes and sizes. They make the tray look like a wild bouquet rather than a methodically arranged one! Now there is no stress about mugs ‘matching,’ because they don’t. ☺

Somehow, everyone is taken aback when presented with a tray laid out thus. Most are delighted to have a say in which color they would like and what quantity of tea. So, hands hover over the rebellious, in-disciplined tray, trying to make up their mind.

This assorted presentation represents a freedom of choice. A choice favouring relaxation of self-imposed rules in areas that could do with some fluidity ☺

It’s an invitation to indulge into your own preference and aid your own memories to resurface through this process… Now, I won’t impose my choice on anyone, should you visit, because what’s my cup of tea, need not be yours!

Dear, sweet Bobbie, lover of nature and meandering walks, biscuits and small talk, left after giving me whole-hearted company for thirteen years. Until he came into my life, I didn’t know the meaning of being dedicated and selfless. He taught me how to savour the small things, that’s one lesson I always want to remember, because he never forgot… 🌼🙏

I would like to end with an excerpt from a book that has occupied my bedside for the longest time and also has been the most underlined and decorated with pencil sketches of birds and flowers.
It is called, ‘Wherever You Go There You Are’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This is one book I can never review because every page will need one!

“Effortless activity happens at moments in dance and in sports at the highest levels of performance; when it does, it takes everybody’s breath away. But it also happens in every area of human activity, from painting to car repair to parenting. Years of practice and experience combine on some occasions, giving rise to a new capacity to let execution unfold beyond technique, beyond exertion, beyond thinking…..”

Thoreau said, “To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”

Ending this Newsletter with good wishes for you all
See you next month! Stay safe 🙂 

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